ceramic artist, painter, architect

Adil Writer is a Potter, Ceramist, Painter and Architect from Bombay, currently living and working in Auroville, where he is a partner at Mandala Pottery which produces functional tableware and assorted ceramic items, and also specializes in architectural ceramic murals & installations. From his own Studios at Mandala, he creates his own line of ceramic works.

Oct 2010, Bangalore 7 inches height 4 inches height 8 inches height 9 inches height 9 inches height 5 inches height Series 1, 2, 3, and 4 5 inches height 4 inches height Detail, 4 inches height 4 inches height Detail, 4 inches height
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treas•ure......... said [trezh-er]
1. wealth or riches stored or accumulated, esp. in the form of precious metals, money or jewels.
2. wealth, rich materials, or valuable things.
3. any thing or person greatly valued or highly prized.
4. to retain carefully or keep in store, as in the mind.
5. to regard or treat as precious; to cherish.
6. to put away for security or future use, as money.

TREASURES is a solo showing of ceramics and paintings by Auroville artist, Adil Writer, at Bangalore’s Gallery Time & Space

A focal point of the show will be miniature treasure boxes made of a variety of clays.... small intimate objects that want you to hold them, discover hidden secrets within ....and, on them..... cradle them, turn them around, open them, explore.....

The paintings on show are acrylics on canvas..... some, I categorize "painted media"..... starting out as "bad" pixellated photos on small phone camera, then photoshopped, later printed on canvas, stretched on wooden frames, and finally painted upon......... almost to a point where the original photographic images are past-life memories!


The Red Dot series and the scribbled writings on my work have somehow become my identity. "I am inspired by humble street shrines and ancient texts and civilisations. The red dot (or puttu or tilo) has a special significance in Indian culture and somewhere along the way it found itself imbibed in my work. My Parsi roots also have the ever present "tilo", smeared on one’s forehead on auspicious occasions..... I find the aesthetic of this dot so strong, it can transform a simple piece into something sacred. Though my surname is Writer, I don’t subject the viewer to my outpourings. Text is from diverse sources. Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, Savitri, the sublime Gulzar, or lyrics from some western musicians who I consider the true bards of the twentieth century. This is all featured in my current work which will be on show in a solo show in Bombay in October, under the working title 'Covers'. The red dot is graduating into the red chakra too.....and I am still exploring it........ Especially after Deborah Smith of GBP presented me a book on the Japanese 'enso'".


My ceramic work takes me to far corners of the world and I am grateful for that. Travelling.... and interacting with "foreign" potters surely opens up fresh avenues, fresher approaches. 2007 saw me in Australia at an international invitational event, CLAY EDGE, where I demonstrated the building and firing of fire-stabilized mud houses, as pioneered in Pondicherry and elsewhere in India by my teacher, Ray Meeker of the Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry.

This event led to an invitation to Shanghai, China for an international teapot show, in which I have now been participating every year. In China I met two invited potters from Estonia. They invited me to the 10th International Wood-firing Symposium in Kohila, Estonia and a ceramic exhibition at the Knightshood Assembly Gallery in Tallinn, Estonia.


I met Italian ceramist, Mirta Morigi in Australia at the Clay Edge Symposium. Subsequently, she visited India earlier this year, and spent two weeks in Auroville where she worked at my studio. The last part of my ceramic – related travels in Europe this year saw me in Faenza, Italy as a guest of Mirta’s. Here I worked briefly at her studio (they call it a bottega). Some of the works I made there are on show at TREASURES, others are in the catalogue, too new and original for me to part with!;-)

Working in a new studio, in a new setting with new materials and different firings lead to fresh aesthetics in the resulting work..... very apparent in the body of work I have made in Faenza.


Auroville is known internationally for its contemporary architecture. I could have stayed on as an architect but veered towards ceramics. For me pottery is still architecture, it’s just a change of scale... so it has been a smooth transition." At Golden Bridge Pottery, besides the intense clay experience, I worked with Ray Meeker on his fired-house projects in 1999, wherein vaults &/or domes are built with unfired mud bricks, and the entire structure is fire like a large kiln, stabilising the form and making it habitable. A couple of years ago, I was invited to an international convention in Australia called Clay Edge where I demonstrated the building and firing of this technique of earth-architecture.

CRUSADE series

Painting for me is a what-I-see-is-what-I-get medium.

I have been paintings, I am told, since I was three. today I am an intoxicated (inebriated? plastered?)"ceramic artist" (I don’t quite like the "ceramic artist" title, but...:-)...however, I stay with my paintings cause it frees me from the confines of a heady, head-strong restricted palette of clays, glazes and cone ten firings.

in India, I feel claywork is still shunted into the confines of humble craft which is probably why knowledge about ceramic art in India has not yet reached the giddy heights mustered by paintings. the crusade for me is to try and bridge this gap. (this is something that has already taken off with the works of ceramists in India; Ray Meeker, Daroz, Kakker, among others, who commandeer respect in the Indian art scene.) My ceramic-painting combinations (I call the series the CRUSADE SERIES) try and bring the two mediums together.... inviting one to touch, feel, experience the surfaces. I have seen people paint on clay to make it painterly.... the otherwayaround, I have yet to see.

I am looking forward to TREASURES in Bangalore’s Gallery Time & Space. It’s been five years since my last solo show in Bangalore. This time around, the work has changed drastically..... and it will be the first time I will be showing my paintings in this city. Looking forward to the experience.

Adil Writer

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"OK then. Make 500!"

Rajeev Sethi to Adil Writer when Adil said, "No! I cannot make a three-meter-cube Treasure Box!"

"But 500 Treasure Boxes, no problem." This is the Adil Writer of the 550 paintings for a hotel in Pune and for Adil just another escapade for his fertile imagination. The 500-piece Treasure Box installation will be mounted permanently in the garden of ceramic sculpture at the Grand Hyatt, Chennai, scheduled to open at the end of the year. Half-way through the making process, Adil confesses, "This is the first time I have made enough of anything to really develop the idea." The richness of this show is in no small part the result of this unusual discipline.

The Treasure Box

"The gift of a decorative box implies permission to conceal one's secrets."
"...the dialectics of inside and outside multiply with countless diversified nuances."
- Gaston Bachelard. The Poetics of Space(1)

These boxes are small. Many fit in the palm of the hand. Intentionally. They are made to be held-close to the heart-to be looked at closely and opened. Inside? There is virtually no inside. This is not a box to be filled with pins, buttons and paperclips. A treasured ring? Or the key to the jewelry box? Perhaps. But what does an Adil Writer Treasure Box really hold? Unquestionably, your imagination. And a kind of rite of passage, if you wish to make the trip-from outside to inside-to Bachelard’s realm of "intimate immensity."

Bachelard reminds us that space is not only mathematical, geometric, scientific, infinite or empty, but imaginal and poetic as well. To paraphrase, poetic image is resonant and reverberates in a loop that intensifies and continually reconstitutes being itself.

Here is the three-meter cube in the palm of your hand.
How can you resist that?

I have two Treasure Boxes on my desk as I write.

Box One is a fireclay and porcelain mix. Understated by normal Writer standards, the dominant porcelain Southern Ice(2), a clean, soft matte white, is embedded on one side with a slab of beige fireclay, flashed to a rusty orange by the flame of a wood-fired kiln. Here Adil’s verve is in his clay work rather than extravagant glaze treatment. An undulating wire-cut "equator" swings across the box, bisecting the spare form with a line as supple and varied as an oriental brush stroke. The pale orange of the fireclay appears again in an ascending tracery of abstract silhouettes, an earthy accent that casually adorns this elegant simplicity. Opened, this is a Treasure Box of breathtaking clarity.

The inner chamber is ovoid, almost spherical. The twisted wire used for the cut has left a furrowed sheer-wall icescape surrounding two frozen bowls. Here the fireclay slab that narrowly borders two edges is a breath of warmth in the eerie silence of this immense interior space. The ice-bound hemispheres on the inside are shadowed by circular orange patches of flame-flashed pattern outside. I do not think this juxtaposition of heat and cold was just the luck of the fire. Or is my imagination getting away from me? Adil says this was not intentional. Either way, the subtlety and restraint exhibited in this piece adds welcome range to the work of this rapidly maturing artist.

Box Two is more robust. Though larger, it does still fit the hand and though still a box, this is a mountain-scape, fissured, furrowed and stamped. The huge fish-fossil escarpments that ascend opposite sides of this mini-mountain geode invoke geologic time and prehistoric life forms. The pattern of a regular grid suggests steeply terraced slopes-agriculture clinging to rock tenuously-a precarious human presence.

The equator is closer to the horizontal than in Box One. And cut above the center. When open, you peer over the edge of a yawning cavern to a coarse sandy bottom where a single, small rectangular floral impression suggests interment.

Adil Writer, the former and still sometimes architect, often invokes the dictum, "form follows function." And I add technique. Dare I say material? Yes. Clay-a chameleon that can mimic just about anything and hide in the guise of almost any other medium. Today many contemporary artists push clay towards the ephemeral, ignoring or rejecting its engaging physicality. "Less is more"? Not for this artist. Born and raised in the Mumbai cacophony-teeming life set against the swelter of several thousand years of history-there is more than a hint of Bollywood exuberance in Writer’s multi-layered treatment of material. It’s as though he has no "delete" key to dampen his expressions of joyous abandon. For me it is difficult to imagine his Treasure Boxes in any other medium. Writer welcomes clay’s unique plasticity-its receptivity and immediate response to his spontaneous handling, recording instantly and faithfully the synergy between material, thought and the artist.

Now living and working in semi-rural South India, Adil Writer is anything but isolated. He is well-traveled, interested in everything and an internet savage. While he will gleefully adopt anything from anywhere and anyone, he is not a slave to the trendy. His work is contemporary without being effete and embraces content without being conceptual. Indian ceramic art, still largely under the radar, is beginning to surface. New paths may emerge that recognize the Western critical model but are not fettered by it.

The Treasure Box series is a repository of memory and imagination in a revel of fired clay-a material that Adil Writer unequivocally loves.


A block of clay
Raw, plastic, malleable,
Often a mix-stoneware and porcelain-
A rolled and tumbled rhomboid,
Irregular, faceted or paddled,
Stamped with a rubber fish-a cat’s toy-a fossil-like impression-
A wealth of what Jim Danisch(3) terms "devious detail"-
Then divided at the equator with a twisted wire,
The dialogue begins.


Two halves,
Two faces-a mirrored topography.
Press in (or dig out) opposing shallow volumes.
Close-a tiny inner chamber.
Open. Geode. Ovoid. A nucleus.
Adil, with a wily grin, leaves a mark,
"I am inside too."

Then slip and glaze,
Dip, pour, splash,
Brush, incise

And fire.
Rivulets of melted wood ash
Run through crusty subtle-hued slag.
Or gas-fired celadon.
Multiple glazes
Merge, commingle
Unimaginable hues.

Adil the traveler
In Italy
Mirta Morigi’s studio,
A confectionery-
Now real color, red, orange, yellow
Candied treasures, frosted,

Each box unique,
Many-sided, interactive, convivial.
There is a hint of ritual.
A red dot.
The tilo. The point without dimension.
The generator of all space.
For Adil the tilo recalls his childhood.
How many treasured grains of rice?

Just for the fun of it!

"The mind sees and continues to see objects; the spirit finds the nest of immensity in an object." G.B.

Adil Writer-the imaginal man-working his charm. Poet of serendipity. Improviser. Indian. Open, absorbing and giving back, sharing the treasure trove of his imagination.

Ray Meeker
September 2010

(1) Bachelard, Gaston. 1884-1962. French philosopher known for his work on poetics and the philosophy of science.

(2) Southern Ice. An Australian porcelain recognized for its plasticity, whiteness and translucency.

(3) Danisch, Jim. American potter now residing in Nepal. Conducted workshop at Golden Bridge Pottery, Pondicherry in 1998.

Ray Meeker studied architecture and ceramics at the University of Southern California. With his wife Deborah Smith he founded the Golden Bridge Pottery in the South Indian town of Pondicherry in 1971. While Deborah now runs the Golden Bridge Pottery production, Ray is best known as a teacher and as the "architect/potter" who pioneered "fired building" technology. More recently he has gained attention for his independent studio work, ranging widely from functional stoneware to monumental ceramic sculpture.

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